The New Core sets the New Rules, on Designer Babies

Today’s food for thought:

Many discussions on designer babies — that form of eugnics which operates by selecting attributes for the next generation of your biological family — seem to assume that the culture and moral compass of the United States and Europe will matter much. America and Europe are comfortable, labor-poor, capital-rich societies, and can rely on a large and generous government to protect them. Economic growth and welfare policies mean that few Americans or Europeans will ever know true poverty, and while the poor are effectively punished in numerous ways (such as having to live with a violent underlcass), these concerns are politely ignored and the poor are criticized for raising them.

The rising countries of the New Core are not so lucky. Things which are matter of convenience for us are matters of survival for them. Terrorism, high energy prices, and similar things inconvenience us but threaten to relegate rising nations like India and China back into poverty and neglect.

So India and China are hungry. They are changing the game. And that applies to designer babies, too.

In America, we take education for granted to such an extent that only rare politicians like George Bush and Ted Kennedy take the political heat for trying to fix it. We do not have the National Exams of China, or the Indian Institutes of Technology, that aggressively weed out all but the best students. In the United States, for most students, the difference between attending a school in the top 5, top 10, and top 50 is pretty negligible — your success will largely be a result of your ability and effort. A 2% of 10% better chance of gtting a good grade or doing well in high school simply isn’t a concern of parents in Europe or the United States.

Those things do matter is in India and China.

So when genetic screening for positive traits hits the $10,000 range, expect a large Indian and Chinese middle class to begin selecting for socially desirable traits, such as dilligence, future-orientation, intelligence, height, fair skin, and so on.

All this chatter about Gattaca won’t matter much. One might as well have tried to turn back the Industrialization of the United States by citing “And did those feet in ancient time.”

Hungry nations care about success for more than sentimentality.

Sentimentality may a drug for the rich and the poor, but not those among the poor who desire to be rich.

7 thoughts on “The New Core sets the New Rules, on Designer Babies”

  1. How is that not a recipe for social unrest though? The poor classes will still substantially outnumber the middle and upper class. Such methods are game-changers that will give the middle class all the advantages upfront.

    Not that I disagree with all this (well of course I do, I think its playing God and that’s rather disturbing but I understand why countries and people will do it, and I cannot stop them, so I will have to reconcile it with my worldview somehow) altogether, but how exactly will this not have terrible repercussions throughout these societies that may outweigh the positives?

  2. Sorry for rambling a bit amidst summer finals…

    Yes. Those are my questions.

    In addition…. what will America’s response be (not politically in a foreign policy sense, but in a domestic, social “competition” sense)?

  3. Eddie,

    Thanks for the questions!

    Is growing inequality a cause of social unrest?

    In the short-term yes.

    Increasing inequality seems to go along with sustainable economic growth. The creation of capital by a society is typical unequal, with those who invest the most capital typically harvesting the most rewards. Those who have only their labor to invest enjoy the benefits of rising wages, but otherwise don’t harvest the excess capital.

    This is true whether the capital invested is from saved cash, or from superior genes or learning environment (“human capital”).

    If so, what can be done about it?

    There are two general approaches, one that can be described as buying-off the losers, and the other as investing in them.

    Consider education in the United States, for example. [1] As Fareed Zakaria notes in “The Post-American World,” the top third of American schools perform roughly on par with Singapore [2]. The real problem is with the worst American schools, which tend to be disproportinately poor and black. The “buying-off” plan seeks to transfer wealth to the capitalless class in a way that does not depend on performance or investment. So, for instance, we have race-based affirmative action, class-based affirmative action, and so on. These are wealth-transfer programs that purposefully tilt the playing field in favor of the least competent.

    The alternative approach is to invest in the capitalless class. This separates out the wheat from the chaffe, making society more meritocratic but does little to help those without the skill or ability to help themselves. Vouchers, for instance, are a great way for the best of the capitalless class to move up. The may be a bad thing for the lazy, slow, and impulsive, however, as the high-achieving peers who would remain near them are instead given the opportunity to better themselves, and thus leave.

    In the United States, the investment approach is associated with the Republican Party, while the buying-off approach is associated with the Democratic Party. Considering that the Chinese Communist Party operates as if the country-club and military wings of the Republican Party had established one-party rule, I imagine you will see an analogous approach by China in the years and decades ahead.

    In addition…. what will America’s response be (not politically in a foreign policy sense, but in a domestic, social “competition” sense)?

    Carli Fiorina once took a lot of heat for saying that “There is no job that is America’s God-given right anymore.” [4] This represents the pro-Investment approach to the social inequality caused by economic growth.

    I imagine an analogous statement would be “There is no gene that is America’s God-given right anymore.” If America will wish to sentimentally attach itself to unproductive genes, in the way it does to unproductive jobs, that will hurt it on the world stage.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/07/08/decapitating.html
    [2] http://www.fareedzakaria.com/books/index.html
    [3] http://essence.typepad.com/news/2008/07/mccain-right-ob.html
    [4] http://thinkprogress.org/wonkroom/2008/06/20/fiorina-history/

  4. “Carli Fiorina once took a lot of heat for saying…”

    She also took heat for almost driving HP into the ground during her disastrous time as HP CEO. Seeing her advising McCain doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy about him. If she wasn’t a photogenic woman, she would never have been heard from again in the public space.

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